Training Through Injury

If you do not follow my Instagram account (@joshuasettlage), you have not seen my stories of me training with the high school wrestlers from my alma mater, Roseville High School. Working with these wrestlers has reminded me of my own wrestling training during high school. In those memories are the bitter memories of injuries. In doing jiu jitsu competitively, injuries are present as well. All these inspired me to talk about something I often get asked about: training through injury/what to do if you are injured.

I feel like I should not even have to say this, but before you ask you coach to sit out of wrestling practice, tell him/her you can’t wrestle today, or decide to not show up to your jiu jitsu training, ask yourself if you are hurt or injured. These are both contact sports with extreme levels of physicality and demand on the body. If you want to be competitive, you have to train while you’re hurt. I find it appalling the absence of tenacity, grit and discipline in wrestlers and jiu jitsu players saying they want to be the best, but will use a jammed finger, or sore throat as a reason to skip out on training. I’m not sorry if that sounds harsh. If you find this offensive, it is most likely because no one told you to suck it up and get back to training. So I’m telling you now, if you want to be the best, suck it up and get back to training.

Now that is out of the way, I can move on to what this article is really about. Imagine you just tweaked your knee in training. You were defending a takedown, and your partner reached for your ankle pulling it towards him/her while your hips were unable to move. They pulled it a little too far and you feel and concerning pop in your knee. You shake it off and finish out practice. You go home, ice it, heat it, compress it, etc. in hopes of full recovery by the time you wake up. Next morning it is swollen and completely stiff to the point when you walk, you are swinging your leg out to the side instead of flexing at the knee. Now you have a legitimate injury. What do you do? KEEP TRAINING. Now I do not mean, keep training takedowns and put yourself in the same position that caused the injury, but DO WHAT YOU CAN. Your knee is jacked up? Good. Time to work on pull ups. Your elbow is tweaked from an armbar? Perfect. Now go hit 500 air squats for time. Pulled something in your shoulder? Awesome. Go lunge for 15 minutes straight.

There is always something you can do. Unless you are in the hospital, find a way to keep training. I had a hurt wrist for most of my junior and senior year of high school. Some weeks it only hurt to put direct pressure on it like in a handstand position, other times it would shoot pain through out my forearm when I turned over the ignition in the car. What did I do? I couldn’t lift (I know… it was a dark and sad time), I could only do limited bodyweight exercises and running drills/workouts. That is exactly what I did. Box jumps, pistol squats, air squats, sprint intervals, broad jumps, and long distance runs. I was able to build up my conditioning and sprint faster than ever. I was somewhat more explosive and had improved my squat mobility tenfold. At wrestling practice I could push a high pace in a match, much longer than I ever could before.

The bottom line is that there is always something you can do. Do not waste time, pouting about how you can’t train. You might not be able to do live rolling, or max out on squats for a few weeks, or do any barbell overhead work, but there is still something you can do to get better. Injuries are blessings and curses. As much as you hate not doing what you love, it might be the only time you dedicate time to work on another weakness in your game.

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Submission Pro Tour Open Peak Week

If you have not been following me on Instagram (@joshuasettlage), or been keeping up with my competitive endeavors, I am competing in the Submission Pro Tour Sacramento Fall Open. As of today I am currently sitting at 11 days out from the competition. In this event I will not be cutting any weight, and will be competing at 181lbs in the white belt division. With any competition, the preparation one makes can directly affect the results of the event or contest. I love training. I love rolling, wrestling, grappling, and lifting weights. I also love to program my own training and tailor it specifically to my needs. Going into this tournament, I knew I need to properly “peak” for this event and come in as fresh and strong as can be. At the GrapplingX tournament I competed in May of this year, I had a great prep, easy weight cut, but felt I came in slightly over trained/under recovered. I felt like I could not produce the force in takedowns, or have the capacity to endure grueling matches, even though I spent a lot of time improving my conditioning. Thankfully I only had three matches, with only one going the distance so my gas tank wasn’t fully tested. Going into this tournament, I want to ensure that I am fully recovered and able to perform my best. Here are some of the tactics I will be implementing to ensure proper recovery.

SLEEP:

Sleep is something I am definitely aiming to increase as the contest grows closer. Going into the GrapplingX tournament, I woke up at 4:15am everyday until the Wednesday before where I caught some more Z’s. I love getting up early and training earlier in the morning rather than later, but I came to realize that if I want to perform my best, I need to reevaluate my sleeping habits. Starting three weeks out, I will go from waking up at 3:15-3:30am six days a week to train, to three days a week and the remaining days sleeping in as late as possible to accumulate a total of eight hours of sleep. This also leads into how I will change my weight training…

WEIGHT TRAINING:

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On the days where I will be waking up between 3:15-3:30am, I will conduct my regular weight training workouts, but with much less volume. Instead of working up to a maximum effort squat and then 3-5 drop sets at 75%, I will just perform the max effort squat, and move on to the accessory work. I also changed the volume on my accessory work. Instead of 10-15 sets of accessory work, it is now between 5-6. Keeping high intensity in my workouts allows me to stay sharp and keep my body loose, without the prolonged recovery time of the high volume training I was doing. The days where I get a full eight hours of sleep, I do not perform any weight training, and focus on pushing the pace at jiu jitsu and getting in extra live rounds. Over the course of the three weight training days, I want to hit the big three (squat, bench, & deadlift) for a heavy single. I will keep this up until two weeks out when I will only work up to 70% of my 1RM for deadlift, but keep squat and bench the same. The week of, it will be light sessions of active recovery work.

NUTRITION:

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My nutrition will remain the same until the contest. I found myself stalling in my body weight, and slightly gaining body fat. I adjusted my macros by slightly decreasing my carbohydrate intake. Since I do not have to cut any weight for this tournament, I can still bulk slowly and focus on building muscle. I am currently following a If It Fits Your Macros approach which works great, but I find a decrease in performance when I chose to get some of my macros from foods of lesser quality. So starting a month out, I will be getting all my macros from quality food sources, the best that I can find. I’ll adjust my macros day to day to see how I’m feeling. If I have a lot of live rounds and am completely spent at the end of training, I might add some carbs back in. That is the beauty of not having to cut weight. I get to eat till I’m satisfied and show up to compete with a full belly.

Those are the three things I will be tweaking with my current programming in preparation for this tournament. After this tournament, I will go back to the full Settlage Size & Strength program and will prepare to compete in Cory Gregory’s Turkey Classic online powerlifting meet. More on that later.

If you are looking for personalized strength and conditioning programming, a customized nutrition, or 1-on-1 training, email me at settlagesac@gmail.com. For more content on training, jiu jitsu, and my personal life, follow me on Instagram, @joshuasettlage.

3 Things Wrestlers Should Do In Their Pre-Season

Labor day weekend is now officially behind us, and the heat waves and summer tournaments are over. Now is the calm between being in the off season, and being deep into the weekly dual meets, tournaments, cold winter and all. As a wrestler, you are the only one responsible for your losses the previous season. There is no one else to blame, but you. As a wrestler, you can not claim credit for any of your wins. Each of your wins last season came from the many contributions both your training partners and coaches invested in you. Although, during the off season, what you do to get better is entirely your responsibility. The summer months are what really separate the JV and Varsity line ups, the divisional competitors, and state placers. During the summer, a wrestler makes a conscious choice whether they want to crush the competition next season or not. They make a choice between being a glutton at every backyard BBQ and hardly gets a wink of sleep, and those who focus on getting stronger, refining technique, and keeping their nutrition in check. What YOU decided to do this summer is what has put you in the position you are in now. It is now the week after Labor Day weekend, back in school, and time to start up pre season training. Here are three things every wrestler who is serious about becoming the best wrestler they can be should be doing right now in this precious preseason.

  1. Keep Getting STRONG.

If you are one of those wrestlers who chose to take advantage of the off season, you most likely spent most of the summer training hard to build a firm foundation of strength to take into next season. Now that it is the pre-season, do not stop now! You still have at least three months before your first tournament. That’s 2 months at the very least to keep lifting heavy and getting as strong as can be. You might have to make sacrifices like skipping weekend parties and late nights to be a good student, and lift for wrestling. You can’t stop now, because there is still work to be done. You do not want to throw away that strength you worked so hard for over the summer. With that being said, now is the time to introduce a little conditioning. Finish out your workouts with some sprint intervals on the track, or sled drags and pushes. You do not need to run a marathon, but something short, fast to start building your engine. A future article will discuss different conditioning finishers for pre-season training. Here is one of the simplest finishers: 20 minutes total of 30s all out sprints, followed by 30s of rest. If you have never done this on a rowing machine, give that a try. You will find what you’re made of on that rower.

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If you have not been training this summer to get strong, now is the time to start. Start squatting, deadlifting, and pressing. If you need to know why strength is important to sport and how to perform each lift, refer to last week’s article here. There is a famous saying, “On a hot summer day with no shade, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time to plant a tree is right now.” You should have started doing some sort of structured strength training two weeks after your last match. If you did not, then you better get to the gym and start now.

2) Dial in Your Nutrition:

School has started which means there are no more summer BBQ’s, swim parties, late night hang outs or kickbacks. Now is the time to get your nutrition straight. You want to have your diet locked in BEFORE season starts. Trying to adjust your diet, finding out what foods your body responds well too, and trying to develop new eating habits to make weight in season is very hard. Get your food straight now. It will only make you a better athlete. If you have never seriously eaten clean before. Start with these two simple rules: 1) If it comes from the ground or has a mom, it’s probably good for you. 2) If it has more than three ingredients, it is probably bad for you. Simple as that. Not only will you perform better as an athlete, you will gradually begin to lose excess body fat gained in the summer, thus giving you a better idea of what weight class you can be most competitive in. Learning to properly fuel your body for optimal performance should be done before you begin training for optimal performance.

 

3) TAKE EVERY CHANCE YOU CAN GET.

For some wrestling programs, not all preseason practices are mandatory. You have to chose to show up to practice. If you are in the middle of football season and/or have commitment to another sport that’s a different story. Although, if you are serious wrestler, you better show up. It’s no secret that the wrestlers who have been to more practices, drilled more tilts, taken more shots, and finished more takedowns at practice are going to out perform you every time. Put in extra work every chance you get. If there’s no practice on Saturday, invite a team mate over, move the couch and coffee table and drill tilts for an hour on the carpet. If there is no one who wants to drill for an hour on a Saturday, move the couch and coffee table and drill your stand up escapes. Getting in 100 perfect reps doesn’t take longer than 10 minutes. Instead of laying on the couch watching TV, watch your matches from last season and take notes (I started doing this when I was a sophomore in high school. Hands down one of the best things I did to become a better wrestler. I still do it to this day with all my jiu jitsu matches.)

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I apply this principle in my own jiu jitsu training. All summer I would find someone who would want to show up an hour early to drill transitions and submissions. I usually stay after class to get an extra 30 minutes of live rolls in. When no one wants to get to jiu jitsu early, I go over to my old wrestling team and wrestle with them for an hour before I go to jiu jitsu. On Sundays I drive 30 minutes across town to another jiu jitsu school and get in an hour of live rolling. My game has improved drastically, because of the extra steps I take each week to become better. My next competition is in 46 days and I want to be prepared as I can be. I will take every chance I get to become better. You have 3 months. Get after it.

These are the three things you should be doing right now during this precious preseason. If you are not, start NOW. Not tomorrow, or Monday. TODAY. Begin to build discipline and take advantage of opportunities to become a better wrestler. Next season is a reflection of the work you put in during the offseason and preseason. Get strong, eat clean, and wrestle.

Barbell Training for Sport

Let me just start off by quoting one of the most influential lifters and self made, self proclaimed, meat head millionaires I’ve ever met: Mark Bell. Bell famously signs off his podcast (Mark Bell’s Powercast) with, “Strength is never a weakness.” This could not be more true. Though yes it is a clever play on words, the underlying principle should be considered when training for sport. Strength is a critical component to EVERY sport. I literally mean EVERY sport. Do not get that confused with most important. In a sport like track, speed is universally most important, but strength is a valuable component in even speed oriented sports. You do not need to be the strongest man in the world, or sport a 500lb deadlift, but when two evenly skilled athletes enter in competition, the one who is stronger is most likely to come out on top. Strength is directly correlated to one’s ability to produce force. For example, in the sport of sprinting, a stronger athlete can produce more force with each foot strike, producing a greater stride length. Greater stride length leads to greater distances traveled with each step with less energy used.

Why specifically barbells? Sure dumbbells, kettle bells, sandbags and body weight exercises are also great tools to build strength, but barbells are most commonly recognized as the superior training tool in building the greatest amount of strength. One of the greatest resources for learning about barbell training, Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training”, explains this concept best. Rippetoe states, “Properly performed, full range-of-motion barbell exercises are essentially the functional expression of human and muscular anatomy under load… Barbells allow weight to be moved in exactly the way the body was designed to move it…” (Rippetoe, M., 2013). Using a machine only allows the body to move the way the machine allows you too. If you are looking to strengthen your lower body, you can squat, or you can use the leg press machine. The leg press machine is a great piece of equipment, although it does have it’s flaws. You do not have to balance the weight and recruit all the stabilizing muscles of your trunk, the leg press machine has a backrest which allows you to produce force against a fixed object, thus removing the need for back strength.

Here are three basic barbell exercises that anyone can add to their current sport training. Keep in mind I am not a doctor, nor do I intend to play one on the internet. Be safe, not foolish.

The Squat:

The king of all exercises is the squat, and I believe every athlete from every athletic discipline can benefit from squatting. Correct and technically sound squatting helps strengthen the entire body (a stronger body is a body that is less susceptible to injury and able to produce more force). One of the biggest benefits of the squat is that it is the only exercise to directly train hip drive. Hip drive is the active recruitment of the muscles that create the posterior chain. The posterior chain includes all the muscles running from your mid back, hamstrings and everything in between. The posterior chain is the core of all athletic movements. The posterior chain contributes greatly to jumping, pushing, picking things up, pulling, stabilization, and balance. Employing squatting into an athlete’s strength and conditioning program can assist in the jumping ability of a basketball or volleyball player, develop the power and strength in the legs and hips of a football player, and produce greater leg drive and force in a wrestler. The squat is also a great exercise to strengthen movements that involve hinging at the hips. The hip hinge position is seen in many sports (traditional wrestling stance, football starting line position, starting position of a vertical jump, etc.).

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A big misconception about squatting is the belief that squatting is bad for your knees. Let me clarify that bad squatting is bad for your knees (Ex: Squatting with your knees caving in is bad for your knees). Squatting with proper technique is actually one of the best exercises for your knees. Rippetoe goes on to state, “The squat, when performed correctly, not only is the safest leg exercise for the knees, but also produces more stable knees than any other leg exercise does.” (Rippetoe, M., 2013). In a study conducted by Tony Ciccone, Kyle Davis, Dr. Jimmy Bagley, & Dr. Andy Galpin from Cal State Fullerton on deep squatting and knee health, they found that deep squats do not place greater amounts of stress on the ACL and the PCL than shallow squats. However, their research went on to conclude that deep squats, “… result in greater activation of lower-body musculature compared to shallow squats.” (Bagely, J., Ciccone, T., Davis, K., & Galpin, A., 2015). That being said, DO NOT avoid deep squats. A REAL squat is when you lower the hips to at least parallel with the knees, preferably below. Any squat with hips higher than the knees is a partial squat, and not a REAL squat.

The Deadlift:

If the squat is the best exercise to develop hip drive, the deadlift is the best exercise to develop back strength. Similar to the squat, the deadlift develops stability in the posterior chain, and allows for the lumbar spine to remain rigid in order to transfer power into the trunk. The deadlift is one of the greatest tests of strength. You can either lift it or you can’t. The deadlift requires the athlete learns how to brace the spine properly which transfers over into all athletic movement. Learning to properly brace the spine is crucial to avoiding potential injury and producing power in a more efficient manner. Not everyone needs to do heavy deadlifts. For a marathon runner or a swimmer, heavy deadlifts might not be necessary. Although, lighter deadlifts with an emphasis on proper bracing and hamstring recruitment can greatly assist in injury prevention.20170829_200924962_iOS.jpg

The deadlift is another great exercise that focuses on strengthening the hip hinge position. It develop one’s ability to lift objects of the ground from a hip hinge position, and extend the torso with proper bracing of the spine. Look at the back control position in jiu jitsu shown below. When the athlete in front is bending forward to defend different submission attempts, the athlete in back must use their posterior chain to extend their opponent’s body to create openings for submission attempts, forcing the hips open and forcing their body into a weaker position. The deadlift can directly strengthen one’s ability to extend the body and open the hips.

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The Overhead Press:

The overhead press is one of the greatest upper body barbell exercises one can add to their strength and conditioning program (in this article I am referring to the standing overhead press). The overhead press not only develops the shoulders and all the secondary muscles involved in overhead extension, but teaches an athlete how to brace their spine in a new overhead range of motion. The overhead press is not just an upper body exercise. According to Rippetoe, “… except for powerlifting and swimming, all sports that require the use of upper-body strength transmit that force along a kinetic chain that starts at the ground.” This route that force travels through the body is called the kinetic chain. This chain begins at the feet (base) and ends at the bar (the load being moved) in the hands of the athlete. It goes without saying that some people consider this exercise as dangerous. Let me again state that bad pressing is dangerous. Pressing with poor technique can lead to shoulder impingement. Shoulder impingement refers to the pinching of the tendons between the head of the humerus (upper arm) and the scapula (shoulder blade). When pressing overhead, the athlete should focus on shrugging their shoulders at the lock out point of the lift. This causes the scapula to be positioned in a manner where the arms are strongly supported and impingement is not present.

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Please excuse the poor picture quality. This is a shot of me doing a behind the neck press. Different range of motion than a regular press, makes this a great variation of an overhead press.

In closing, barbell training can greatly enhance someone’s athletic ability and drastically increase performance in their sport. Barbell training is arguably the best way to build strength. By incorporating the squat, the deadlift, and overhead press, an athlete can get stronger, have the ability to produce more force, and become a more complete athlete. There are several ways to program barbell training for sport. This is all dependent on the athlete, the sport, training experience, etc. which I will cover in a future article. Below are some links to some of the best instructional videos on how to squat, deadlift, and press. Give them a watch and try them out.

If you enjoyed this article, share it with a friend. One of my biggest passions is spreading the gospel about the barbell. Barbell training has changed my life and I believe it can change yours too.

For more information of barbell training for sport, questions about current training programs, or inquiries about 1-on-1 training sessions, DM me on Instagram (@joshuasettlage) or email me at settlagesac@gmail.com.

The Squat:

The Deadlift:

The Overhead Press:

 

What I’ve Learned About Bulking

If you are someone who is serious about lifting weights, or someone who is just starting, at some point you have or will think about trying to get stronger. To a certain degree getting stronger comes with getting bigger. Bigger muscles have a greater capacity to be stronger muscles. This is the reasoning for most lifters choosing to go through a “bulking” phase. Bulking is the simplest terms is a phase of training where total calories consumed are increased and the goals of training are to build muscle and get stronger. Although, bulking can mean many different things depending on who you ask, and the different methods of bulking vary even more drastically. Let me first clarify the notion of a “clean” or “dirty” bulk. A clean bulk is a well paced rate of weight gain, and consists of manageable macronutrients obtained from healthy foods. A dirty bulk is an excuse to eat garbage in the name of bulking. If you are serious about getting better as an athlete by putting on size and gaining strength, you better be eating clean and staying disciplined. Do not make excuses for yourself. For the rest of this article, the term bulking refers to a “clean” bulk.

My first phase of bulking was one, giant, six month long, uncontrolled, experiment. After I stopped wrestling my junior year of highschool, I assumed since I would no longer have to make weight anymore I would gain lots of muscle, and become big and strong. I was mistaken. Instead of eating lots of food and lifting heavy, I was still doing hundreds of burpees, running all the time, and only picking exercises I was good at with my lower body weight. In turn, I gained only THREE pounds over a nine month period (139-142). Just before high school graduation, I decided it was time for me to get BIG and STRONG. I researched and studied many articles, podcasts, and webinars from the top minds in strength and conditioning to figure out just how I would execute this bulking phase. After filtering through all the information, this is what I found to be the most common principle’s of bulking.

  • A healthy rate of weight gain is 1-1.5lbs per week.
  • You must increase overall caloric intake to gain weight.
  • You must lift HEAVY. Your program should reflect a focus on strength. You can’t truly get strong if your program is designed for someone to build conditioning.
  • EAT. EAT. EAT.
  • Keep eating.

All of these pieces of advice are very true, and can create a good base for someone who is trying to bulk. I took all these pieces of advice to the extreme. My goal was to weigh 175lbs and add 90lbs to my back squat in six months. Every morning I woke up excited to weigh myself and see how close I was too my goal. When I ate, I stuffed myself full and then ate more to ensure I was getting enough calories. I stopped all conditioning. Literally ALL conditioning. No running, burpees or rowing for a whole year. I conveniently skipped the light conditioning at the end of the week, because I needed to “recover” when really, I didn’t want to breathe hard. I kept eating and lifting heavy and obtained what I considered at that time to be amazing results. In six months time, I had gone from 142lbs to a bigger and stronger 176lbs. If my rate of weight gain was greater than a pound and a half per week, I didn’t care. I was growing and was blindsided by such a quick and large increase in weight. I had only added about 60lbs to my back squat which at the time I was happy with. This all came at a price. As you can see in the photos below, I went from being very lean, with a traditional light weight, wrestler physique, to what my family members called my dimple belly stage. I was simply too large and soft for my very short frame.

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June 2015. Weight: 142lbs
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December 2015. Weight: 176lbs
  • You must EAT. EAT. EAT. to get big, but you can not just consume whatever portions you want even if it is all relatively healthy foods. For the most part I was eating what most would consider healthy food, but my overall caloric intake was off the charts for what my current activity levels were.
  • Conditioning may not be a focus in a bulking phase, but for the benefit of overall health, some conditioning should be in every bulking program. I was shocked when I had a tough time doing sprint intervals on the rower and running just one mile.
  • There is a reason why most experts suggest no more than 1.5lbs gained per week when bulking. I was just getting too big, too fast and gained a substantial amount of fat and not the amount of muscle I was aiming for.
  • Continue to do bodyweight exercises so you can still move your own bodyweight even at a larger weight. It was one big wake up call when I could barely get through 10 grueling pull ups.

The second time I decided to bulk, it was after I had finished the 2016 Tahoe Show bodybuilding event where I competed as a Teen Men’s Physique competitor. At the show I had my best physique to date. Though I had lost some strength during the prep, I loved how I went from the heaviest I had ever been, and in 15 weeks created my best physique ever.

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2016 Tahoe Show Front Pose. Weight: 149.5lbs
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2016 Tahoe Show Back Pose. Weight: 149.5lbs

Going into this second bulk, I knew I could not repeat the process I had done the year before. I knew I needed to take control of my eating habits, pay more attention to how much weight I was gaining from week to week, and not lose all the conditioning I had developed during the prep for the bodybuilding show. In turn, that meant I needed to change up my programming too. I tested out some new training techniques and programming principles centered around gaining strength (5-3-1, Bulgarian method, etc.). My new goal was in four months to gain between 10-15lbs of body weight, add 30lbs to my back squat, and still have visible abs. The results: Weight Gain: Yes, 15lbs. Back Squat 1 Rep Max PR: No. Visible Abs: Yes. I then realized I needed to learn more about programming for strength. I already learned how to put on weight, and from previous training endeavors understood how to train for conditioning and getting better at bodyweight exercises, but I needed to truly learn how to get strong.

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December 2016. Weight: 165lbs

Gaining weight was the easy part, but what good is more bodyweight if you can’t move heavier weights on the barbell. After this second go around at bulking, here are the new takeaways:

  • It is possible to eat very clean and still gain weight.
  • The training program must be tailored to build strength in addition to muscle size.
  • Getting bigger doesn’t not always mean stronger. I for sure got bigger, but still moved the same weight I always had.

After starting up jiu jitsu again and competing in several tournaments with training goals geared toward building conditioning, maintaining strength and cutting weight for competitions, I knew it was time to bulk again. That is where Settlage Size & Strength was born. I wanted to seriously get BIG and be STRONG. To my surprise, I had made some serious strength gains while still cutting weight for jiu jitsu so I knew the new programming techniques and principles I applied were working. Now it was time to construct the best diet for me that allowed me to have enough fuel to train hard with the weights for two hours in the morning, roll hard in jiu jitsu for two hours in the evening, and still build size and strength. I researched many books, videos, articles, and interviews with some of the best coaches in powerlifting. Guys like Mark Bell, Chad Wesley Smith, Matt Wenning, Mike Israetel and Louie Simmons. After spending hours of studying, and creating draft after draft of the new program, I now had a new way of going about bulking. This time I was very specific in how I tracked my macronutrients, conscious of the program and the progressive overload that I followed as well as splitting the total six month program into two phases. The first three months were focused primarily on hypertrophy or muscle size. The last three month phase were all about strength. Here are the new principles of Settlage Size & Strength for my current hypertrophy phase:

Personal Nutrition:

Macros:

  • Carbs: Start with 2g/lb of bodyweight. Once weight gain stalls for two weeks, increase carbs by .25g/lb of bodyweight. If weight gain becomes greater than 1-1.5lbs per week, cut back carbs by .25g/lb of bodyweight per week till proper rate of weight gain is established. I am currently around 2.15g/lb of bodyweight.
  • Protein: 1-1.5g/lb of bodyweight.
  • Fat: Keep majority of fat sources from healthy fat sources like olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter, etc.

Personal Training Protocol:

Big 3 Exercises:

  • Squat every day. Each day being a different squat variation.
  • Drop sets for volume on Monday, Wednesday, & Friday.
  • Bench Monday & Thursday.
  • Deadlift Monday & Wednesday.
  • Accessory & bodybuilding exercises reflect the primary exercise for the day.

Of course there are many more intricacies and details to the program as far as rep schemes go and variations in volume from week to week, but this is the foundation of the program. In the 4 months I have been running this program on myself, I have seen amazing results! In the first 12 weeks I gained 10lbs of muscle, and achieved an unexpected 30lb PR on my back squat! I still have some abs and have kept excessive fat gain at bay. I still am able to do my bodyweight exercises and have plenty of conditioning for jiu jitsu. I must address the jiu jitsu though. The hard rounds of jiu jitsu acts as a great source of cardio that others doing this program might not have access to. I believe jiu jitsu has allowed me to gain weight and consume more calories than if I was not competing in jiu jitsu. Due to my higher levels of activity through jiu jitsu, I can afford to consume more calories. Although, this does come at a price. If I have a hard training session at jiu jitsu, sometimes my workout the following morning can suffer. I do my best to recover as optimally as possible, but sometimes it happens.

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May 2017. Weight 155lbs
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August 2017. Weight: 170lbs

 

All that being said, if you are someone who is looking to gain weight and get stronger, I hope this article gave you some insight and new perspectives on gaining weight and building muscle. The last two years of bulking and cutting cycles have taught me so much. I learned a substantial amount about my body and how it responds to different training stimulus and nutrition protocols, as well as much more. My hope is that you can take these tips I found through my several bulking cycles and apply them to your own! Don’t stop there, join the conversation! If you have questions about bulking or building strength for sport or everyday life, DM me on Instagram (@joshuasettlage) or email me at settlagesac@gmail.com! I am here to help, you. If you are interested in signing up for Settlage SIZE & STRENGTH, now is the time to do so! Registration is open till Sept. 3rd! I have seen some crazy results on this program and I am only 4 months in! Let’s put on SIZE & STRENGTH together!

The Importance of Mind Muscle Connection

In the bowels on Instagram and YouTube, if you are viewing any sort of fitness, bodybuilding, or workout content, I am sure you have heard of the phrase, “mind-muscle connection”. Though it may be a simple concept, the challenge is consistent application and correct execution. Mind muscle connection was made popular by those of the Golden Era of Bodybuilding during the late 60’s and 70’s. The Golden Era of bodybuilding produced famous lifters like, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Dave Draper, Serge Nubret, Robby Robinson, and Frank Zane.

During bodybuilding’s early years, athletes chased the pump that they got when lifting seriously. The wonderful feeling of blood flushing through your muscles resulting in your skin feeling tight over the growing and pumped up muscle bellies. The champions of that era though went one level deeper into their training. The “mind-muscle connection”. The mind muscle connection is just that. A connection and extreme focus you place on the muscles at work during a certain exercise. For example, when doing a dumbbell curl, using mind-muscle connection means literally envisioning the bicep contracting and squeezing the weight at the top. Then focusing on how it then lengthens as you let the weight down slowly and the two heads of the bicep drifting away from one another.

This results in a better contraction. When you have a better contraction, you can recruit more muscles fibers to do more work. When more muscle fibers are at play they are able to be subject to training stimulus and thus yield better results after proper recovery. Mind muscle connection can greatly improve your workouts. The mind-muscle connection, like stretching and posing between sets, is one small extra step you can take to shock your muscles even more. Being in complete control of your body is a crucial aspect to training. Your mind is capable of subjecting the body to the specific stimulus necessary to produce the results you want to see.

The mind muscle connection also means you need to stay focused on your workout. It doesn’t mean you are texting between sets, or checking Instagram or talking to a friend at the gym. It means you are focused solely on squeezing your chest together in a fly, or pressing out the bench press with perfection. If you just go to the gym and are going through your workout lackadaisically, you will never tap into your true potential. I consider the gym almost like a church. You should not be texting in church or wondering about what is for lunch afterwards. The gym is no different. You are there to train. Not to socialize, watch other people workout, while you sit on a bench for ten minutes scrolling through Instagram. It is a time that you set aside to TRAIN. Having a mind muscle connection in your workouts means you are training with intent, not just going through the motions.

Though the mind muscle connection as described above is important, it is not necessary for all activity and exercises based on your goals. If you are pulling a heavy deadlift, your focus should shift to staying tight in the midsection, proper bracing of the spine, and keeping the bar in it’s optimal bar path, not on the hamstrings and spinal erectors. Focus, which is greatly involved in mind-muscle connection, is the underlying principle to be learned. Whether you are doing dumbbell lateral raises and you are focusing solely on your deltoids, or running and focusing on your pace and cadence, the focus you bring into the gym is what can elevate your workouts and assist you in seeing better results.

Why Settlage Size & Strength?

This Settlage Size & Strength Program is a programmed designed to build some big, quality, dense, muscle, and use those bigger, harder muscles to get even bigger, and most importantly stronger! This is a long journey. Six months is a long time. Quality size and strength does not happen overnight. It takes time to make such a serious change in your body. There are many myths, misconceptions, and mistakes, people make when trying to bulk. Ever heard of a dirty bulk? Or have you heard anyone say, “I’m going to bulk”, but they still do hours of cardio so they can keep their 6 pack? I have made all these mistakes. My first bulk I stuffed my face with food, not always clean food, and gained 30lbs in three months and a substantial amount of body fat. Not to mention, I didn’t make as many strength gains as I wanted either, and I lost all the conditioning and endurance I had developed previous to the bulk. Since then I have several more bulking cycles, each better and more productive than the last. My mission with this program is to help you get BIG without gaining a crazy amount of body fat, and get STRONG.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED?

To do this program, you will need a weightlifting belt, or a powerlifting belt, shoes for squatting and deadlifting (flat soled shoes like Chuck Taylors will work great for both squats and deadlifts. If you prefer a Olympic weightlifting shoe with an elevated heel for squats, that’s fine. I use Reebok Lifters 2.0 Plus for squats, and Chuck Taylors for deadlifts) and a gym with the equipment necessary to do squats, bench presses, deadlifts, pull ups, dips, plenty of dumbbells, and cable machines/access to resistance bands of varying resistances.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I SHOULD DO THIS SIZE & STRENGTH PROGRAM?

If you are someone who looking to gain size and strength this program is for you. If you feel like you are fresh out of your beginner gains, and want to continue progressing in your lifts, this program is for you. If you are looking to get bigger for football, or put on some size for a future bodybuilding show, this program is for you. This program is designed to help those “hard gainers” and people who want to bulk up without gaining too much bodyfat.

CAN I DO THIS PROGRAM IF I AM A HARD GAINER?

Again, YES! I was what you would call a hard gainer. I couldn’t gain any weight when I was wrestling no matter how hard I tried. It wasn’t until I completely changed how I was training and how I ate that I slowly began to gain more weight.

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Day 1 of Settlage Size & Strength.  Body weight 155lbs.
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Week 8 of Settlage Size & Strength. Body weight: 163lbs.

WILL I GAIN A LOT OF BODY FAT?

If you stick to your nutrition plan and follow the workouts as they are perscribed, you should experience minimal fat gain. Notice how i said minimal, not zero fat gain. Gaining weight means you have to gain some fat along with all the muscle you are building. Don’t worry, *SPOILER WARNING* there is a leaning out phase that will be available just about the time this program comes to an end.

WHAT IF I’M A BEGINNER AND HAVE NEVER LIFTED BEFORE?

This program is scalable for all fitness levels. Whether this is the first workout program you choose, or you are a seasoned lifter looking for something new, the workouts can be scaled up or down to meet your fitness needs.

SETTLAGE SIZE & STRENGTH PRICING:

6 Month Size & Strength Program Pricing:

Program Payment Plan Cost Description
Settlage Size & Strength One Time Payment

Month-to-Month

$525 (Best Value)

$95/month

Full access to all 24 weeks of Settlage Size & Strength, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, weekly check ins and monthly FaceTime calls.
Settlage Size & Strength (Personalized Programming) One Time Payment

$600

Full access to all 24 weeks of Settlage Size & Strength tailored specifically to your athletic needs and resources, and bodytype, customized nutrition plan, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, daily check ins and weekly FaceTime calls.

If you are ready to gain some SIZE & STRENGTH, fill out the fields below to sign up for the newsletter!

Why #COLLEGECUTS?

#COLLEGECUTS is a training program created for college students who are struggling to balance the responsibilities of being student and living a healthy lifestyle. I was not originally thinking of creating this program, but after several people asking me about a program for college students with goals of leaning out/losing that freshman 15, it came time to create #COLLEGECUTS! I am college student myself and have had to learn how to balance being full time student, while having three jobs, and finding time to train for a bodybuilding show, and jiu jitsu tournaments. It was not easy, but it was doable, just like how it’s going to be doable for you! I have been training since I was in seventh grade. At the time, I did not understand how people did not have time to be healthy and workout. It wasn’t until I reached college, I realized the balancing act many young adults go through while being in school. Health is often left at the bottom of the priorities list. We are young now, our bodies bounce back like nothing else, although that time will end. If we don’t make the right decisions now, we will pay ten fold in the future when our health leaves us.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED?

You will need access to a gym, or at least some workout equipment. Honestly, any gym will do. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy as long as it has a squat rack, dumbbells, barbells, and a few machines/access to resistance bands of varying resistance. Most college campuses have rec centers you can join and train at during certain hours. You will also need some solid training shoes. This program is not for someone who is going to train in their slippers.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I SHOULD DO #COLLEGECUTS?

Here are a few questions for you: Once high school athletics were over, did you let yourself go a little bit and gain some “Freshman 15”? Are you someone who has never really led an active or healthy lifestyle and are looking for somewhere to start? Do you just want to stay lean throughout the semester now that summer has ended? If you answered YES to any of these, then this program is for you. The focus of this program is to help you get healthy and lose body fat.

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WORKOUT?

You never have time. You must make the time. Not having time to train is a lazy excuse. Trust me, if you are focused and getting after it, training hard, you will be out of the gym in an roughly an hour. Get in the gym. Train. Leave. No texting, checking Instagram, working on homework, or socializing by the water fountain allowed.

WHAT IF I’M A BEGINNER AND HAVE NEVER LIFTED BEFORE?

This program can be easily tailored to your experience level as a lifter. If you are someone who is just getting into exercise and working out, you can choose the scaled version of the workouts.

#COLLEGECUTS PRICING

#COLLEGECUTS

Program Payment Plan Price Description
#COLLEGECUTS

 

One Time

$260 (Best Vale)

Full access to all 12 weeks of #COLLEGECUTS, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, weekly check ins and monthly FaceTime calls.
#COLLEGECUTS Month-to-Month

$95

Full access to all 12 weeks of #COLLEGECUTS, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, weekly check ins and monthly FaceTime calls.

If you are ready to make a change and get #COLLEGECUTS, fill out of the fields below and sign up for the newsletter!

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Ab Training 101: Training for Performance

Here it is guys! The last article on ab training. At least for now. If you haven’t read the first two articles on ab training, I suggest you click here to catch up. In the first two articles we introduced the muscles that are involved in the construction and movement of the abdomen. Following up on that article we discussed how one can train the abs for aesthetic purposes. Training, toning, and developing the abdominals in specific ways to create that tapered, “6-pack” look. The last article will only focus on how you can train your abdominals and midsection to optimize performance.

The midsection of the body is one of the most important pieces of our anatomy. It holds the majority of our vital organs, and houses some of the largest muscle groups in the body. The spine also runs through our midsection. The spine is a very important piece of the human anatomy. Not only does it protect our spinal cord, but it keeps us from being a flimsy sack of blood, muscle, and organs. The muscles surrounding the spine play very important roles in sport and everyday activities. They brace the spine under load as well as assist in the spine in rotation, global flexion, and global extension.

It is important when training the midsection for sport, you train all ranges of motion and angles. Only training your midsection with farmer walks at your sides could lead to a weak overhead position. A weak overhead position often means an over extended lower back in pressing exercises and hanging exercises. An overextended lower back means sapped energy and power potential and an increased risk to injury. Train the midsection in both the anterior and posterior sides, as well as the lateral sides as well. Change it up! Make it weird. Carry a heavy dumbbell in one hand, and a light kettlebell in the other. Walk like that for 50ft., then switch. You want your midsection to be strong in all areas, thus being able to brace the spine and move in all areas, because in most sports very rarely does our body move in perfectly straight lines with slow, progressive increases in loads.

Some of my favorite exercises for midline performance are farmer walks, 1 armed farmer walks and carries, heavy barbell compound lifts, and occasionally rotational ab exercises. These all help in training the midsection as a whole and in sections.

Take a look at these sample workouts and see how they encompass all areas and sides of the midsection.

Midline Stability Workout 1:

5 Rounds:

100ft. Farmer Walk

100ft. 1 Arm Overhead Carry (Each Arm)

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Farmer Walks with Strongman Axles (Sub with DB’s/KB’s)
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1 Arm Overhead DB/KB Carry

This first one is a simple one I picked up from world record power lifter and weightlifting coach, Travis Mash. It is a simple workout that address both stability in upright positions in movement as well as overhead stability in movement. Perform this workout during a deload week or on a active recovery day. These carry exercises, when loaded appropriately, don’t beat you up as bad as would a deadlift or another heavy compound movement that requires a lot of midline stability and bracing.

Midline Stability Workout (Wrestling):

5 Rounds:

100ft. Zercher Walk

5 Turkish Get Ups

100ft. Front Rack Walk

5 Turkish Get Ups

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Barbell Zercher Walk
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The Turkish Get Up
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KB Front Rack Walk (Barbells and DB’s can also be used)

This is a great wrestling workout that will not only develop your midsection and ability to brace properly, but also increase endurance in shoulder stability when moving in awkward positions underload. The Zercher position for all grapplers. It forces you to hold the barbell essentially with two underhooks which any grappler knows is a staple position in grappling sports. Turkish get ups are another great exercise for learning how to support a load over head while moving. The transfer it has to wrestling is huge. Even though you might never find that exact position in a wrestling/ jiu jitsu match, you have to constantly find a way to get back to your feet if you are underneath someone with a devastating and heavy top game. Front rack walks are brutal. If you’ve never done them before, start light and start slow at first. To walk in a front rack position means you have to keep your chest up and elbows high, and not letting the weight pull your chest down and your back rounded over. In a match, when you are tired at the start of the third period, you need to be able to keep your head and your chest up and not get easily broken down. If you are a wrestler or jiu jitsu athlete who gets snapped down and put into the front head position, this is an exercise for you.

Midline Stability Workout (Bodyweight):

5 Rounds:

30 Hollow Body Rocks

30 Superman Rocks

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Hollow Body Rock
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Superman Rock

If you do not have access to any weights to do midline stability work, you can always throw this simple body weight superset at the end of your workout. The hollow body position is a very common position from gymnastics that will help with your pull up mechanics, shoulder stability/overhead position. Superman rocks help isolate the glutes and the erectors of the spine which for many athletes can go severely underdeveloped. So many people focus on training the muscles that they can see. Arms, chest, the front of the shoulders, and in most cases the rectus abdominus or what most people consider, “abs”. Superman rocks help strength the erectors and glutes which work together with the transverse abdominus to stabilize the spine.

Depending on what your goals are and what kind of athlete you are, throw these midline stability workouts in on your active recovery day or at the end of a workout once or twice a week. If you train your midsection in this fashion consistently you will find that your main lifts will improve, you won’t fall out of your wrestling stance at the start of the second period, and overall lowerback health will improve. Feel free to email me at settlagesac@gmail.com if you have questions on any aspect of ab training.

Josh

Ab Training 101: Training for Aesthetics

As mentioned in the first article of this series, the “abs” are some of the most coveted muscles to have and a popular characteristic of what would be considered a fit physique. Again, here’s a big secret for everyone. You ALL have abs. If you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t be able to stand let alone sit up straight without falling backwards. If you did not read the first article on ab training which goes into great detail on the muscles of the abdomen and their functions, I suggest you go back and check it out here.

Now on to how to train your abdominals in regards to bodybuilding, body composition, etc. Let me start off by saying a common phrase I first heard from IFBB Pro Men’s Physique competitor, Steve Cook. According to Steve, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” I have always told my clients this phrase any time they ask about abs. If your diet does not reflect one of a healthy lifestyle, no amount of crunches or hanging legs raises is going to help you see your abdominals. In order to have a visible rectus abdominus, you need to have a low percentage of body fat. If you have diet consisting of foods that lead to an increased amount of body fat, it’s no wonder you can not see your abs. It’s simple, you cannot out train a bad diet.

Let’s assume you are eating clean to begin with and you have established a relatively low level of body fat and are wanting to further develop your abdomen through specific training. There is a lot of information out there about all these different ab machines, exercises, training techniques, and most of it is hoopla. Not that those trainers on the internet do not know what they are talking about (some of them certainly don’t), beginning to train the abdomen is much simpler than it’s made out to be.

If you are just starting to train the abdominals directly, a good place to start would be to throw about 3-5 sets of ab specific training at the end of your workouts, 3-5 times a week. A simple ab finisher could look like this…

3-5 Rounds:

25 Crunches

10 Hanging Leg/Knee Raises (or 25 Reverse Crunches)

This basic workout inspired by Arnold’s own beginning ab workouts, trains both the upper abs that insert into the rib cage, and the lower abs that insert into the pubic bone. Many people often only do crunches for endless amounts of reps. Essentially half of the rectus abdominus is being left untrained! A basic ab finisher should train both the upper and lower end of the abdominals.

Once you have trained your abs consistently for about 4-8 weeks, it is time to introduce new movements that also train the oblique muscles as well as an increase in ab training volume. The ab twist/seated twist/broomstick twist is a great exercise I picked up when researching training techniques from three-time Mr. Olympia, Frank Zane. As mentioned in the previous article, Frank Zane had absolutely amazing abs. It is noted he would do 1,000 reps of ab exercises when training for the Mr. Olympia competition! The ab twist as I call them is not an exercise designed to build up the obliques like a weighted crunch would for the upper abdominals, but more so to tone and tighten the obliques to add to the small waist illusion. Frank Zane trained his obliques so hard with twisting exercises that his obliques nearly “disappeared”. Training and developing well constructed and developed abdominals requires hitting all sides of the abdomen with different stimulus and ranges of motion.

frank-zane-posing.jpg The next progression for ab training would be up your minimum for ab finishers to five days a week like they did in the 70’s. Often times, Arnold, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Ken Waller, and the gang would perform ab exercises at the beginning of their workout as a warm up (more on that later) as well as at night five days a week. An intermediate level ab routine could look like this…

Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:

3-5 Rounds:

25 Weighted Crunches

10 Hanging Leg Raises

Tuesday, Thurs, & Saturday*

*If you regularly train on Saturday

3-5 Rounds:

25 Reverse Crunches

25 Ab Twists (Each Side)

After another 4-8 weeks of consistent ab training in this fashion, it is time to introduce a new stimulus. More volume. The abdominal muscles respond incredibly well to volume when prescribed correctly. I mentioned before how people will attempt to create better abs by doing hundreds upon hundreds of crunches and not see any results. If that is the only ab exercises they are doing, the muscles of the abdomen will adapt and not be changed or affected by the repetitive stimulus they are given.

During the Golden Era of bodybuilding, many famous bodybuilders would use ab training as a warm up. This technique is still used today, but is rarely seen. I personally read about Arnold warming up every workout with 500 reps of Roman Chair Sit Ups, as well as specific ab training at night, but never gave it much thought until recently. During the last training cycle before the 2017 GrapplingX Brazilian Jiu Jitsu NorCal Championships, I began doing some simple ab work during my warm ups and before my heavy squats. After two weeks I saw an incredible difference. My abs were thicker, my waist was slightly smaller, and my lower abs were more defined than they were during the 2016 Tahoe Show! These “warm up” abs were also paired with my nightly ab routine that I do 4-5 times a week. Keeping the awesome results I saw in mind, I am continuing to train my abs during the warm up of my workout even during this bulking phase I am currently in. The goal is to develop them so much that even when I am at the peak of my bulk with some expected bodyfat gain, they are still relatively visible. When it’s time for the cut back down, they should in turn look better than ever.

Once you have gone through the first two sample ab workouts listed above, and you’re looking for something new, or want found that your ab training is growing stale, I highly suggest you take note of the bodybuilders of the Golden Era and do ab training both as part of your warm up and at the end of your workout or a night. It is a great way to increase the volume of your ab training as well as hit all parts of the abdomen without keeping you in the gym forever. 15 minutes in the morning, and 15-20 minutes at night has been my recent formula when training my abdominals for aesthetics. When I was training for the 2016 Tahoe Show, I would perform about 100-300 reps of weighted crunches and about 50 ab wheels every night before bed. Cory Gregory is most famously noted for his #Squateveryday, or #Squatlife training methods, although he also does weighted crunches and ab wheels almost every night before bed. His abs are self labeled, “bricks” that are similar to Zane’s ab development.

Taking from Arnold, Zane, and Cory Gregory, this is my current ab routine that has helped me develop my abs during my preparation for the 2017 GrapplingX BJJ tournament (I know you don’t need perfectly sculpted abs for jiu jitsu, but I still enjoy training to maintain my physique as well as train specifically for sport). The results of this ab training yielded results for my abdominal area even better than those at the 2016 Tahoe Show!

AM Ab Training: 6 times a week before each workout mixed in with the warm up.

3 Rounds:

15 Back Ext

5 Bodyweight GHR

10 Hanging Straight Leg Raises

25 Ab Twists (each side)

PM Ab Training: 4-6 times a week either right when I get home from Jiu Jitsu, or before I go to bed.

3-5 Rounds*:

30 Weighted Crunches w/ a 25lb plate

10 Ab Wheels

*Sometimes I will throw in an additional ab exercises to changed things up a bit. For example, reverse crunches following the ab wheels for 30 reps.

Stayed tuned for the next and final article in this series, Ab Training 101: Training for Performance. To have abdominals that look great is one thing, but having an abdomen that is both strong, stable, and sturdy is another. This upcoming article will focus on how the abdominals brace the spine and different methods of training to strengthen the midsection.